How 2021’s film adaption of ‘Dune’ compares to Frank Herbert’s classic novel
Welcome to Screen Gab, the newsletter for everyone who correctly (and incorrectly) guessed who the killer was on “Only Murders in the Building.” Let’s start a podcast.
On Tuesday, Hulu released the season finale of the delightfully addictive murder-mystery comedy. So, by now, you know _______ was revealed as the person behind Tim Kono’s death — spoiler alert, it wasn’t Harry Styles (he was too busy making waves on “The Eternals”) or the magnificent purple coat worn by Martin Short’s character. Satisfying ending or not, there’s no denying Steve Martin delivered a masterful physical comedy performance opposite an elevator. Production is well underway on the second season of the series, which also stars Selena Gomez, and when The Times spoke with showrunner John Hoffman, he teased that Sting may not be the only surprise cameo/celebrity resident of the Arconia: “We hope to make that a bit of a tradition on the show.”
But when one TV show wraps, another one spreads its wings. Sunday brings the anticipated return of “Insecure,” which commences its fifth and final season. Co-created by and starring Issa Rae, the South L.A. series about the laborious and drama-filled journey into adulthood wraps its five-season run on HBO with 10 episodes — and before you ask, none of the episodes will be an hour! (We asked.) Our conversation with showrunner Prentice Penny will publish Sunday. Keep a lookout for it!
In other news, Netflix has been active in our news alert mentions: Transgender employees at the streaming giant and their allies gathered Wednesday outside the company’s office on Vine Street to protest Dave Chappelle’s standup special “The Closer”; supporters of Chappelle were also on site. The day prior, during its quarterly earnings, the streamer announced that it would change the way it reports viewership of its content, moving away from its two-minute “view” standard to instead share the total hours watched for any given title within 28 days of release. We’ll be over here preparing our brains for all the data overanalyzing.
In the meantime ...
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Streaming recommendations from the film and TV experts at The Times
“Ghosts” (CBS). The charming, conventional situation comedy, based on a British original, is set in a haunted mansion full of bickering roommates, some dead, some alive. Rose McIver and Utkarsh Ambudkar are the living ones, the customary city folks who inherit a big house in the sticks that comes with something extra. (See title.) McIver’s character, after a nearly fatal tumble, can see dead people; Ambudkar can’t — because it’s funnier that way. The deceased whose space the couple invades include a Viking (Devan Long); a hippie (Sheila Carrasco); a Jazz Age singer (Danielle Pinnock); a Boy Scout leader (Richie Moriarty); a pantsless Wall Street type (Asher Grodman); a Revolutionary War officer (Brandon Scott Jones) who seems not to know he’s gay; a caustic pre-Colonial Native American (Román Zaragoza); the house’s original occupant (Rebecca Wisocky); and a basement full of cholera victims. All have some sort of unfinished business, or they wouldn’t be stuck in this otherworldly “Real World,” but making the best of the community you have is an underlying point. — Robert Lloyd
“Visible: Out on Television” (Apple TV+). It’s been quite the LGBTQ history month with the ongoing Netflix/Dave Chappelle news cycle, yet I’ve been revisiting film and TV shows like this excellent five-part docuseries that thoroughly and thoughtfully connect the ways that queer people have been portrayed in media over the years to prevailing cultural attitudes. Created by Ryan White and Jessica Hargrave, the series examines almost every key moment in LGBTQ TV history from the Army-McCarthy hearings to more recent landmark titles such as “Pose” to show how queer history and television are very much entwined. Actors, writers and other TV professionals provide commentary and share anecdotes that give context to the various milestones, and some of the show’s most insightful discussions are around the ways TV moments that marked progress often still fell short. Episode 2, which covers how and why queer activists used television as a means to enact change, has felt like a particularly appropriate watch this week. — Tracy Brown
In this week’s edition of Here’s Another Movie Based on a Beloved Novel, we look at how Denis Villeneuve’s take on sci-fi epic “Dune” compares to Frank Herbert’s classic 1965 novel. Warner Bros.’ highly anticipated $165-million production, which stars Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides, arrives today in theaters and on HBO Max. Film writer Josh Rottenberg offers a bit on what to expect:
It streamlines some of the sprawling storylines: Herbert’s novel brims with subplots and side characters, presenting a major challenge to anyone trying to distill the narrative down to even two films, let alone one. To trim the story to a more manageable size, Villeneuve and his co-writers took a scalpel — or, in some cases, a more blunt instrument — to Herbert’s book, excising certain characters, such as the Baron’s scheming nephew Feyd-Rautha (memorably played by Sting in Lynch’s version), and moving others to the margins. The book’s two key “mentat” characters, for example — Thufir Hawat and Piter De Vries, played by Stephen McKinley Henderson and David Dastmalchian, respectively — are significantly less prominent in the film than in the novel. Indeed, the word “mentat” — referring to a specially trained being who is a kind of cognitively supercharged human calculator — is never actually spoken. And a plotline in the novel in which Hawat wrongly suspects Jessica of betraying the Duke does not factor in the movie, though it could potentially surface in the planned sequel.
Avoiding internal monologues and narration: Herbert’s novel is dense with italicized inner monologues, as characters continually muse about their hopes and fears and consider their secret plans. Villeneuve wanted to take a more purely cinematic approach, trusting that audiences could glean the characters’ motivations through nuances of performance, music and moody imagery without having them spelled out in awkwardly whispered voiceovers. In an innovation not found in Herbert’s book, Villeneuve gave Jessica and Paul a system of secret hand signals so they could share their thoughts without words. (The film does preserve one famous inner monologue.)
Villeneuve also dispensed with the epigraphs, extracted from the writings of the fictional Princess Irulan, daughter of the Padishah Emperor, that Herbert placed at the beginning of each chapter of the novel to provide further context and commentary for the story.
That’s just a sampling of what modern moviegoers can expect. Read Josh’s full report for more on the changes made in “Dune’s” journey to the screen.
A weekly chat with actors, writers, directors and more about what they’re working on — and what they’re watching
Kristin Chenoweth is on “The Voice” this season to assist the show’s newest coach: Ariana Grande, whom Chenoweth first met backstage after a “Wicked” performance when Grande was 10 years old and has since partnered with in a duet on her latest album. Ahead of her concert this Saturday at Orange County’s Segerstrom Hall, the Broadway legend and “Schmigadoon!” scene-stealer told us why “Voice” viewers are in for a treat and which Bravo series remains in her rotation. — Ashley Lee
You and Grande first met when she was 10 years old. What continues to impress you most about her?
We all know what a great voice she has, but she’s also a great teacher, and I was very proud of her for showing that to the world. And also, she’s funny! I don’t think a lot of people realize how funny she is.
What have you missed most about performing live while not being able to during the pandemic?
The interaction between the artist and the audience is always my favorite. Whether I’m in the audience or on stage, I like the fact that we both listen and tell each other what’s working. My favorite place to be is on a stage — which is why I’m in therapy, I guess, but I sure do love it.
What movie or TV show have you been recommending to friends lately?
“Midnight Mass.” It’s a great horror show. You just have to commit and watch it.
What movie or TV show do you revisit frequently for whatever reason?
“The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” I’m not proud of it.
Must-read stories you might have missed
On “Succession,” Gerri calls the shots. J. Smith-Cameron knows the feeling: Meredith Blake, The Times’ resident “Succession” scholar, spoke with the actress who is one-half of TV’s weirdest bestest couple that’s not a couple ... and gifted us quote gems like this: “I made up slime puppy. I’m proud of slime puppy. It’s my contribution to American literature.”
A breakup, an idol and work-life balance. How Mia Hansen-Løve found “Bergman Island”: The critically hailed French filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve makes her English-language debut with the romance drama that features Vicky Krieps and Mia Wasikowska. The film is available on video on demand.
Eve finds her perfect match as she returns to TV with “Queens”: The rapper discusses her return to series television in ABC’s new musical drama about an all-female superstar rap group, Nasty Bitches.
It was “crystal clear” showbiz wanted Billy Crudup for his looks. He had other ideas: “The Morning Show” fan favorite discusses his performance as beguiling network executive Cory Ellison on the AppleTV+ drama, harnessing one’s ambition, and how playing a media executive has given him perspective as a performer.
The TV shows and streaming movies to keep an eye on in the coming week
Fri., Oct. 22
“Invasion” (Apple TV+). Aliens. Sam Neill is your genre legacy star.
“Maya and the Three” (Netflix). Jorge R. Gutierrez (“The Book of Life”) directs an animated Mesoamerican fantasy epic, in nine parts.
“Inside Job” (Netflix). The conspiracy theories are all real in this workplace cartoon. Lizzy Caplan and Christian Slater lend their voices.
Sun., Oct. 24
“Insecure” (HBO). Issa Rae’s groundbreaking South Los Angeles dramedy begins its fifth and final season.
“Curb Your Enthusiasm” (HBO). In France, this show is titled “Larry and His Navel” (“Larry et son nombril”). C'est vrai!
Mon., Oct. 25
“4400” (CW). The 2004 USA series, in which missing persons mysteriously reappear, has mysteriously reappeared, minus a “The” in its title.
“POV: Things We Dare Not Do” (PBS). Bruno Santamaria’s documentary on a trans teen in a Mexican small town.
Tues., Oct. 26
“American Veteran” (PBS). The troops. Four-part series hosted variously by vets Drew Carey, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Wes Studi and J.R. Martinez.
“Frontline: Shots Fired” (PBS). Deadly force in the Beehive State. From Abby Ellis (“Flint’s Deadly Water”) and the Salt Lake Tribune.
Wed., Oct. 27
“Nova: The Universe” (PBS). Travel.
Thurs., Oct. 28
“Star Trek: Prodigy” (Paramount+). Youth-themed animated series features teen aliens on an intergalactic joyride, with Kate Mulgrew back as Capt. Janeway. CGI, but you can’t have everything.
“Love Life “ (HBO Max). William Jackson Harper (“The Good Place”) stars in the second season of this anthological rom-com. Anna Kendrick pops back in from the first.
Your pop-culture questions, answered
Want to know more about one of the filmmakers we’ve interviewed? Need a new show to binge now that your fave is done for the season? If you have a question about TV or streaming movies for the pop culture obsessives at The Times, send it to us at email@example.com and you may find the answer in next week’s edition.
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